Review: Hammerfall Live in San Antonio

18600620_1799172320396473_1686726238_n.jpgWritten by Mauricio Adan

Hammerfall appeared in San Antonio, TX for the first time in 19 years this past weekend. The Templars of Steel invaded at the Alamo City Music Hall, along with Delain and local support act, Anonymous Henchmen, on one of two Texas stops on the “Built to Tour.” In support of their latest studio release, covered earlier this year by MATG, Hammerfall truly lived up to the name of the album, titled “Built to Last.” The band, who has been alternating headlining spots with Delain on this tour, did not headline this date but they did indeed bring the spirit the “Built to Last” record to life, quite powerfully. Almost two decades in Hammerfall has no intention of slowing down any time soon, nor are they afraid to go toe to toe with the top rising metal acts of today.

As the crowd mightily chanted “Ham-mer-fall!” they opened up with ‘Hector’s Hymn,’ the powerful single from the previous album, ‘(r)Evolution.’ I quickly surveyed the crowd to happily found many young fans singing along to every word, proving that Hammerfall is no nostalgia act by any means, nor can they be considered your old man’s power metal relic. Fists pounded the air and voices filled the hall as the intro to the classic ‘Riders of the Storm’ split the atmosphere into pieces next. It was quite a sound to hear so much of the crowd chant the phrases of these powerful anthems like the hit from 2005’s ‘Chapter V,’ ‘Blood Bound’ and ‘By Any Means Necessary,’ which came next. The cool mix of somewhat older songs with new had the crowd going pretty hard by this time, but it was the fifth track that drove the audience really wild (pun intended). The tough sound of a motorcycle engine came through the PA and immediately the crowd knew that one of the band’s biggest classics was about to be unleashed. ‘Renegade,’ the tale of a Harley riding, leather wearing “outlaw chasing outlaws” took the crowd right down memory lane all the way back to the early days.

I was introduced to Hammerfall many years ago one summer when my oldest brother came home from the Army on leave. In his CD case was a cool looking album from a band I had never heard of. This was one of the albums that, as they say, changes things forever in the heart of a metal head. That album was Hammerfall’s Renegade. So for me it was an especially emotional moment seeing the band for the first time and hearing this song. I was pleased to see that it appeared to be a similar moment for many in attendance.

After ‘Renegade,’ one of the band’s oldest classics, they finally hit material from the brand new album. ‘Dethrone and Defy’ rocked the crowd and then ‘Last Man Standing’ gave the fans yet more chances to sing along to memorable chorus chants the band is so widely known for. Lead singer and front man Joacim Cans stopped to talk to the crowd in the city he hadn’t seen since the band’s inception two decades ago. “Who here has never seen Hammerfall?” To state the obvious, being that the band hadn’t been to San Antonio in 19 years, most of the crowd responded, though there were a few attendees who answered when he asked who had indeed seen them in the past. “So, we will be popping some cherries tonight, I see!” He continued, “I want our old friends to help our new friends out. What do you answer when I say “Let the Hammer?” To which the whole crowd replied as one voice: “FALL”! “So, I guess you guys don’t need any help at all! Well, in that case…” And with that, they “Let the Hammer Fall!” Imagine, for a second, the whole crowd jumping to the beat, fists pumping and metal horns flying. It was an epic five minutes with some of the loudest crowd participation of the night. That was followed by the mighty title track of the new album, Built to Last.

Joacim then took a minute to connect with a crowd a bit. He reminisced on how 20 years ago five young guys “in the middle of nowhere, Sweden, together composed an album that would change our lives forever.” That album was Glory to the Brave, Hammerfall’s iconic debut album. He joked about how, as is the style these days, managers and associates began asking, “So, are you gonna go out and play the whole album for the 20th anniversary?” To which he answered, and I am not using the exact language here, “Hell NO, we are not gonna play the full album!” I suppose they do not want to add to the predictable nostalgia themed anniversary tours that many bands are cashing in on right now. I’d say that is pretty cool and something to be respected. However, they did proceed to unleash a very hard hitting GTTB medley, which kicked off with ‘Stone Cold,’ then ‘Steel Meets Steel,’ a tiny piece of the album title track, and finally, finished it off with the second half of ‘The Dragon Lies Bleeding.’  It was a fast paced adrenaline rush, to say the least. This was followed up with what has become an instant Hammerfall classic, ‘Hammer High.’ It was a joy to see so many fans singing along to a brand new song from the new album, again pounding in the theme that this band is truly here to stay. ‘Bushido’ came next before the closing song of the night. Joacim stepped down off the stage and came face to face with the crowd, climbed up on the barricade and held the hands of fans in the first few rows. Then he held his microphone in front of our faces and allowed a loyal, ecstatic fan right next to me sing the words to the first verse of ‘Hearts on Fire.’ It was a touching moment. As the raging power metal played on, the voices rang out, loud and proud. “Hearts On Fire! Hearts on Fire! Burning, Burning with Desire!”

In the end, the band all came forward to give a bow and say good night as the crowd again chanted “Ham-mer-fall! Ham-mer-fall! Ham-mer-fall!” They did not want the show to stop. The gratitude and real emotion was very evident on the smiling and grateful faces of the band. Though it was not a huge crowd, the venue was nowhere near full and most of us would have loved a lengthier, it was a night to remember for all in attendance. The young, symphonic metal band Delain came up afterward to close out the show. While they gave a stellar performance, as they have each time I’ve seen them before, it would be unjust not to point out that so many of the audience was heard commenting things like, “I don’t know how in the hell Hammerfall did not headline this show!”

Absent from the set list were some of the band’s biggest and most recognizable classics. No ‘Way of the Warrior.’ No ‘Templars of Steel.’ Sadly, nothing at all from Legacy of Kings! Not even the song ‘Hammerfall.’ I guess there is something to be said of a band that can deliver that strong of a performance while leaving out so many staple tracks. Be that as it may, it was a magical evening for all of the bands and fans alike.

Later in the evening, the band reemerged behind the venue, near the tour buses where they met fans, signed autographs, took pictures and chatted with anyone who cared to take part. A few lucky fans were even invited backstage to hang out and party with the bands. But that part of the story is not for us to know. Those are the extra special, behind the scenes moments that most of us hope to be a part of some day. On that note, something tells me that Hammerfall will not wait another two decades before returning to the Alamo City. Until then, the San Antonio fans will surely keep the flame burning, awaiting their hero’s return. Hammer high!

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